Olatunde Johnson

Olatunde C.A. Johnson

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg '59 Professor of Law

J.D., Stanford Law School, 1995
B.A., Yale University, 1989

Areas of Specialty

Antidiscrimination and Equality Law
Fair Housing
Employment Discrimination Law
Statutory Interpretation
Civil Procedure

Known for her distinguished scholarship in civil procedure, legislation, and anti-discrimination law, Olatunde Johnson is equally committed to cultivating the next generation of civic-minded lawyers. In the classroom, Johnson draws on her background in legal practice and government service to illustrate how social change can be effected through litigation as well as problem-solving outside the courtroom. 

Johnson’s research has helped shape the national conversation on modern civil rights legislation, anti-discrimination, fair housing, congressional power, and innovations to address discrimination and inequality. Her recent work examines state and local governments’ efforts to enhance opportunities for historically excluded groups as well as the conflicts that arise when states preempt local efforts to address discrimination and promote wage increases and affordable housing. 

In 2016, Johnson was awarded the Law School’s Willis L.M. Reese Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Columbia University’s Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching. In 2009, Columbia Law School students selected Johnson as the Public Interest Professor of the Year, praising her as a “role model for aspiring public interest lawyers.” In February 2020, she was appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice to the Resolutions Committee honoring Justice John Paul Stevens, for whom she clerked.

Nearly a decade after she joined the Columbia Law School faculty, in 2006, Johnson was appointed vice dean for Intellectual Life for the 2016–2018 term. In that role, she organized a wide range of events designed to engage the Law School community, from a Lawyers, Community, and Impact panel on recent developments in U.S. law and politics to a roundtable discussion on integration in America, faculty film series, and a book talk.

Johnson brings extensive public service experience to her work at Columbia Law School, including clerking for Judge David Tatel on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court. From 1997 to 2001, Johnson worked at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where she conducted trial- and appellate-level litigation to promote racial and ethnic equity in employment, health, and higher education. From 2001 to 2003, she served as constitutional and civil rights counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee, then as a senior consultant on racial justice in the ACLU’s National Legal Department from 2003 to 2004.

In 2017, Johnson was elected a member of the American Law Institute.


  • Federalism and Equal Citizenship: The Constitutional Case for D.C. Statehood, 110 Georgetown Law Journal 1229, 2022 (with Jessica Bulman-Pozen)
  • Vaccination Equity by Design, 131 Yale Law Journal, 2021 (with Kristen Underhill)
  • Towards a Law of Inclusive Planning: A Response To “Fair Housing for a Non-Sexist City”, 134 Harv. L. Rev. F. 312 (2021)
  • The Future of Labor Localism in an Age of Preemption, ILR Review, November 2020.
  • The New "Essential" Rethinking Social Goods in the Wake of COVID-19 in Law in the Time of COVID (Katharina Pistor Ed. April 2020).
  • Memoriam: Justice John Paul Stevens, 133 Harv. L. Rev. 747 (2020).
  • Consider Segregated Affluence (Responding to Edward G. Goetz, Anthony Damiano, and Rashad A. Williams (2019), Endowments and Minority Homeownership, Cityscape 21(1): 99-123).
  • Choice and Gentrification in The Dream Revisited: Contemporary Debates About Housing, Segregation & Opportunity (Ingrid Gould Ellen & Justin Steil Eds. 2019).
  • “Social Engineering” Notes on the Political Economy of Integration, 40 Card. L. Rev.1149 (2019).
  • Just Cities? Gentrification, Integration, & The Fair Housing Act,” 53 Rich. L. Rev. (2019).
  • Equality Law Pluralism, 117 Colum. L. Rev. 1973 (2018).
  • Overreach and Innovation in Equality Regulation, 66 Duke L. J. 1771 (2017).
  • The Troubling Turn in State Preemption: The Assault on Progressive Cities and How Cities Can Respond (with Richard Briffault, Nestor Davidson, Paul Diller & Richard C. Schragger for the American Constitution Society) (2017).
  • Inequalities; Antidiscrimination and The New Discourse of Economic Inequality, 94 Tex. L. Rev. 1647 (2016).
  • The Local Turn: Innovation & Diffusion in Civil Rights Law, 79 Duke J. L. & Contemp. Prob. 115 (2016).

View an extended list of Olatunde Johnson’s publications.


Honors and Awards

Admitted to American Law Institute


Willis L.M. Reese Prize for Excellence in Teaching


Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching


Public Interest Professor of the Year


News and Press

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